Career Profile: Leslie Roberts, Co-Host CTV Morning Live Ottawa
Bell Media’s employee-led Diversity and Inclusion Think Tank (DAITT) works year-round to find ways to contribute to Bell’s culture of diversity and inclusion.
In celebration of National Coming Out Day on October 11, DAITT is profiling one of its members, Leslie Roberts, the award-winning news anchor and co-host of Ottawa’s CTV MORNING LIVE, who shares his experience coming out as a gay man in the workplace 30 years ago.
How long have you worked at Bell Media?
LR: I started my career at CTV Montreal in 1983 where I spent 17 years as a reporter covering everything from medical breakthroughs to travel tips. I left in 2000, and returned to CJAD Radio in Montréal in 2016 before moving to CTV Ottawa in June of this year as the co-host of CTV MORNING LIVE.
What was it like for your career when you first came out as gay?
LR: It was a challenging time for many reasons. At the time I was married to a woman and we worked together in the same newsroom. It was tough. Culturally, we weren’t having the same conversations about inclusion and acceptance in the workplace at that time, and I was worried it could negatively affect my career. That was 1989. Thirty years later, it is inspiring and empowering to be working in the same industry with full support of my friends, family, co-workers at CTV MORNING LIVE, and corporately at Bell Media.
What was your experience like at Bell Media when you decided to come forward about your sexuality?
LR: Coming out is a deeply personal and emotional process and one that LGBTQ people have to repeat with each new situation. At Bell Media, coming out was no big deal – in the best way! I was also surprised and thrilled to hear that there are employee resource groups and a corporate team in place to support and empower employees who are LGBTQ. Let’s face it, I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years and, feeling safe now, wanted to give back. I’ve joined the Diversity And Inclusion Think Tank (DAITT) to help people know it’s OK to be authentic.
Based on your experience, what do you think Bell Media can do to make coming out a smoother experience for employees?
LR: Bell Media has internal resources including opportunities like this one – embracing National Coming Out Day. We need to continue working to let our co-workers know that differences are not a big deal. I hope more people take part in opportunities to get the message out by joining groups, participating in pride parades across the country, and celebrating diversity at every chance.
What’s the one piece of advice you would give to someone about coming out?
LR: In 2019, you can come out with more resources than ever. In my lifetime I have been privileged to witness huge advances in human rights, but the work is not done. Mental health remains a real issue for young people in the LGBTQ community; harassment is still a legitimate concern, as is rejection by family and community. I am encouraged to see how young people are today feeling safe enough to be who they are. So my advice is: When the time is right for you to come out, you will be supported more than you know, and you will be OK.
Your family and friends have known you were gay for a long time, but you haven’t spoken about it publicly – why now?
LR: I have wanted to for a long time, Bell Media’s DAITT is the perfect conduit to do so and National Coming Out Day feels like a good day to have this conversation. I want parents and families who may be struggling to know that their kids are going to be alright; I want kids who are fearful of coming out to know that they too will be alright and that they no longer have to fear that sexual orientation will affect their career choice.